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Milk drug residue incidence declines

Progressive Dairyman Editor Dave Natzke Published on 18 April 2018

The FDA annual analysis shows dairy consumers remain safe when it comes to animal drug residues in milk.

During fiscal year 2017 (Oct. 1, 2016, to Sept, 30, 2017), more than 3.8 million milk samples were tested for animal drug residues. Of those, just 605 tested positive, according to the FDA’s National Milk Drug Residue Database Fiscal Year 2017 report.



No animal drug residues were detected in dairy products headed for sale to consumers.

The Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, which governs the state regulatory agencies in the implementation and enforcement of their Grade “A” milk safety program, requires all bulk milk tankers be sampled and analyzed for animal drug residues before the milk is processed. Any bulk milk tanker found positive is rejected for human consumption.

The number of samples testing positive was down from the year before. There were 618 positive samples in fiscal year 2016, 579 positive samples in fiscal year 2015, 703 in fiscal year 2014, 731 in fiscal year 2013 and 828 in fiscal year 2012.

State and local agencies conduct drug residue tests at four “locations”:

  • Bulk milk pickup tankers (bulk raw milk from a dairy farm). Samples are taken on receipt of every tanker load at a milk receiving facility. Of nearly 3.4 million samples, 356 (0.01 percent) tested positive.

  • Producer (raw milk obtained from the bulk tank/silo from a dairy farm). Of 346,500 total samples, 243 (0.07 percent) tested positive.

  • Other (milk from milk plant tank/silos, milk transport tankers, etc. Of 49,226 total samples, six (0.012 percent) tested positive.

  • Samples of pasteurized fluid milk and milk products (finished dairy products in bulk or package form, after pasteurization, including milk, cream, condensed and dry milk and milk products, and condensed and dry whey and whey products were tested). Of 33,511 total samples, none tested positive for animal drug residues.

Overall, 16.2 million pounds of milk were found positive for a drug residue and disposed of in fiscal year 2017, up from 15.3 million pounds in fiscal year 2016 but down from 16.8 million pounds in fiscal year 2015 and 18.1 million pounds in fiscal year 2014.


Testing for specific drugs

In addition to testing for presence of any drug residues, specific tests seek to identify residues from different groups or individual drugs, using 18 different testing methods.

Of those testing positive, 604 samples were positive for beta lactams, three were positive for sulfonamides, and one was positive for tetracyclines.

Mandatory drug residue reporting is required by state regulatory agencies under the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS). NCIMS is a voluntary organization directed and controlled by member states to promote the availability of a high-quality milk supply.

The FDA and the NCIMS, through their collaborative efforts, have developed a cooperative federal-state program (the Grade “A” Interstate Milk Shippers Program) to ensure the sanitary quality of Grade “A” milk and milk products shipped in interstate commerce.

The National Milk Drug Residue Database is a voluntary industry reporting program under contract to the FDA. Data reported to the National Milk Drug Residue Database are for educational and analytical purposes and are not intended or suitable for regulatory action or follow up.

The system includes all milk, Grade “A” and non-Grade “A,” commonly known as manufacturing grade. Grade “A” milk represents approximately 99 percent of the milk supply in the U.S. and is regulated through the NCIMS by the state regulatory agencies.


On July 1, 2017, an 18-month pilot project began to test a percentage of bulk milk tankers for tetracyclines. Further details regarding the pilot can be found online (Appendix N pilot Program). end mark

Dave Natzke
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